2021 is the European Year of rail, an initiative proposed by the European Commission as part of the European Union’s efforts under the European Green Deal to highlight rail as one of the most sustainable, innovative and safest modes of transport.
2021 also marks the year when Romania’s railways started moving towards a one-stop-shop ticketing service for its passengers.
Romania’s 10,628 km of railway lines are currently operated by several public and private companies under public service contracts signed with the Romanian Railway Reform Authority (RRA). At present, each operator has its own ticketing system, making it more challenging to travel by train.
For instance, if you travel from Bucharest to Slănic in Prahova County to visit one of the largest salt mines in Europe, you will have to take two trains from two different rail companies. As a result, you will queue at two ticket offices and lose potential travel discounts since you are effectively buying two separate journeys from two different suppliers.
To solve this problem and increase passenger mobility and competition between the rail operators, the RRA plans to develop an integrated, electronic ticketing system. The goal is to ensure the interoperability of the various ticketing systems and provide the information necessary to improve rail traffic in Romania.
PASU support to vital Romanian railway
With the support of a team from the EIB’s Project Assistance Support Service Agreement (PASSA) unit, the RRA prepared an application for EU financing to develop an inter-operable e-ticketing database accessible to all six local passenger rail operators. The EIB experts provided advice on the cost-benefit analysis to ensure that the project would be well built and sustainable in the long run. As a result, the financing application was approved, and the financing contract was signed earlier this year.
Electronic ticketing: The difference it makes
The electronic system will benefit passengers by saving them time and money. Passengers will be able to buy a travel card for their entire journey, containing tickets for each train on the route, regardless of the operator, from a single point of sale, benefitting from the best offer regarding route and travel discounts. About 60% of all train tickets have discounts due to laws that grant various incentives for rail transport. At the same time, the passenger rail operators will enjoy equal and non-discriminatory conditions for the distribution of travel documents through secure and complete electronic management and save money by using less staff and infrastructure for their own ticketing systems.
The future of rail travel is digital
The new system will also provide the RRA with updated and reliable data on passenger flows and the efficiency of train routes. This will help them to establish the optimal public service obligation, thus ensuring the mobility of human resources and increasing the use of the country’s railway infrastructure. Furthermore, the integrated ticketing platform will provide the correct and fully automated calculation of subsidies granted to passenger train operators under their public service contracts. In addition, the database will help the Romanian authorities to better plan and prioritise the modernisation and extension of the rail network and assess the transport needs for each route so that more people chose to take the train.
Overall, train travel remains the most environmentally friendly mode of motorised passenger transport in Europe, releasing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than travelling by car or plane.